Five Years in the Making: The Norton Research Library Knows No Bounds on it’s Timeless Collection

First Saturday Tour: Library/Literary Arts Tour 7 January, 2:00 p.m.

Come look at our new library! We’re so delighted to begin 2012 by offering you the opportunity to explore our new Norton library, where staff and scholars will research history, literature, and the arts from our permanent collection of more than 12,000 volumes. They’ll likely spend hours in here, for this new library is more than floor-­‐to-­‐ceiling shelves of books but a work of art itself.

The tour begins near our lobby where two massive, hand-­‐carved oaken doors will open to the library. Inside, you’ll see the new home of a gem of our permanent collection, John James Audubon’s double elephant folio of Birds of America. Elsewhere stands a marble bust of English author and lexicographer Samuel Johnson by Augustus Saint-­‐Gaudens. Around the room topping the bookshelves are fabulous murals by local artist David Dooley celebrating great epic works of literature from Gilgamesh to Moby Dick. The guide will point out the exotic woods, rare stone, and stained glass that complement the Dine volumes on display, many of which are first editions and some centuries old. The formal tour will last only about 20 minutes, giving you plenty of time to peruse the shelves and admire the massive Audubon work. You’ll also learn more about the times and rules for library usage, which will also be posted on our website.

Grand Re-Opening: The Norton Research Library 7 January, 2:00 p.m.

In 1933 at one of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, a booklover named Paul Jourdan-­‐Smith wrote a heartfelt tribute to the power of reading, declaring:

This is no time for the collector to quit his books. He may have to quit his house . . . and give away his car; but his books are patiently waiting to yield their comfort and provoke him to mirth. They will tell him that banks and civilizations have smashed before; governments have been on the rocks, and men have been fools in all ages.

Libraries have long been a source of mankind’s comfort and strength in the face of adversity. It’s not a coincidence that as we’ve faced the greatest Financial crisis since the Great Depression, library attendance has steadily increased, even as libraries suffered severe cutbacks in funding. In New York alone, from 2008 to 2009, library circulation was up 13%, reaching 21.1 million items, an increase of nearly four million over 2007. The pattern was repeated everywhere, with Americans visiting their libraries some 1.3 billion times in 2008. Whatever politicians and economists may tell us, the library has proved to be one of the rare indispensable institutions of civilization. And it’s withthat in mind that we are delighted to announce the opening of the remodeled Norton Research Library withthe First Saturday Tour at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 7, 2012. In the future, library tours will be held each Sunday afternoon at 1:30 with the library open for viewing from 2:00 to 5:00 on Sundays. For those who wish to do research, the Norton has two levels of access, Readers and Scholars, the applications and rules for which are available on our website at www.rwnaf.org. But whether you’re seeking information or just looking for a special way to spend a Sunday afternoon, the Norton Research Library is a great place to visit.

In re-­‐imagining our library, we sought to make sure that it was worthy of an art museum, not only possessing a remarkable collection of books and research materials suitable to the collection, but also a beautiful gallery in its own right. Museums have long dedicated their own special touch to unifying beauty and knowledge with edifices like the renowned Huntington Library in Pasadena, California, the outstanding Morgan Library in New York, and thecharming Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington. Tough acts to follow, but those provided the inspiration for our own.

Our dedication to beauty begins at the entrance to the library with 19th century hand-­‐carved wooden doors bearing the motto of Spanish rulers Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. From there, you enter our stunning Reading Room with its exotic woods, gorgeous stone, literature-­‐ inspired works of art, and, of course, the Norton’s Rare and Antiquarian Book Collection. Some of the magnificent woods on display included the cocobolo of the coffered ceilings, the canary wood of the barrel vault, the cherry found in our cabinets, the mahogany of the Corinthian columns, and even a beautiful coffee table fashioned of cross-­‐sections of petrified wood from Madagascar. Onyx, marble, and granite adorn various fixtures along with stained glass, while the floors are constructed of cork and the grills before the rare books are a special brass pattern available only from London.

 The largest piece of art in the Reading Room commemorates the gentleman who is originally responsible for our library: R. W. Norton, Jr., who along with his mother, Mrs. Annie Miles Norton, established the R.W. Norton, Sr. Art Foundation in honor of his father. On either side of him are two gentlemen of great significance to libraries: an Augustus Saint-­‐Gaudens’ marble bust of Samuel Johnson, the great English writer and lexicographer, and a bronze bust of the perhaps the greatest illustrator of literature in history, Gustave Doré, by Albert-­‐Ernest Carrier-­‐Belleuse. On these shelves is the Norton’s extensive collection of works illustrated by Doré.

Other sculptural pieces in the Reading Room include renditions of Cupid and Psyche, Joan of Arc, and Mephistopheles. In our cabinets reside 19th century collectibles celebrating the works of writers from Shakespeare to Dickens. We are especially proud of the murals which grace our walls above the bookshelves. These are all original works by artist David Dooley which were specifically commissioned for the library. They are each based on episodes from great literary epics; visit us and see how many you can name! Of course, the real focal point of the library is our collection. In the Reading Room, you can see on display and on the shelves some of the thousands of the Norton’s rare and antiquarian books, including the remarkable double-­‐ elephant folio of John James Audubon’s The Birds of America. Other outstanding books in the collection include a 15th-­‐century version of Ptolemy’s Geographia (Atlas of the World), the 16th-­‐century Ortelius’ Theatre of the Universe, the 17th-­‐century Blaeu atlases, and the 18th-­‐century Catesby’sThe Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands. The library also holds autographed copies of books by James Fenimore Cooper, Mark Twain, and Frederic Remington, among others, as well as autographs of all the American presidents from George Washington through Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

And should you find yourself just wishing for a quiet moment in beautiful surroundings, a seating area next to the windows overlooking the Norton’s botanical gardens along with several research tables make for a pleasant place to rest for a while and catch up on the latest in contemporary art magazines and publications.

With all these treasures and pleasures awaiting you, we hope to see you soon.

Special Exhibition: American Legacy: Our National Parks 6 December 2011 - 12 February 2012

Today’s plein-air painters follow in the tradition of those who came before. Like artists of the 19th and 20th centuries, they set up easels outdoors and render in one day’s sitting a glimpse of natural grandeur. Besides producing great art, those “pioneers” also joined preservationists, naturalists, and others in convincing American lawmakers and congressmen to set aside such places of such national, natural importance. These artists re-confirm that natural beauty needs protection.

For the works in this exhibition, 38 members and guests of the Plein-Air Painters of America recreated those earlier efforts. Each selected a favorite national park, whether large or small, then ventured into their depths and captured in a day the beauty around them. One location was Yellowstone, the subject of long-ago pleinair painter Thomas Moran. The grandeur he captured in his works helped advocates in Washington, D.C. persuade Congress to designate the soaring landscape as the nation’s first national park.

From what these modern-day plein-air painters produced, The Haggin Museum of Stockton, California selected 94 paintings for this traveling exhibit. Rambling through three of our galleries, these works aren’t merely pretty pictures of the outdoors, but, like a “field journal”, reveal seasonal and daily experiences of color and light. While some artists finished their works in the field, others used on-site sketches to create larger, finer studio paintings.

The exhibit premiered at The Haggin Museum in October of 2009. It’s on a threeyear tour that was developed and managed by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services of Kansas City, Missouri. Of course, like all exhibits and events at the Norton, it’s free of charge.

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